Hasegawa Kodaka is a high school transfer student who has trouble making friends. As does his weird classmate Mikazuki Yozora, whom Kodaka discovers in lively conversation with her “air friend” (it’s like an air guitar, only a friend). Kodaka and Yozora discuss their friendless situations and contemplate how they might make friends, if only they were any good at it. The following day, Kodaka is surprised when Yozora presents him with a complete and school-approved application for a new club, of which he is now a member. Called the Neighbors Club, it is meant to attract other friendless students so they can all learn the art of friendship.
In pursuit of this goal, the Neighbors Club members create activities they believe will assist them in attracting friends or learning normal social behavior. However, there are reasons the members do not have friends, made hilariously clear by their awkward failures at these simple activities. The characters introduced in this volume are typical: the sullen loner, the transfer student, the over-achiever, and the feminine male underclassman. In giving these stock characters the inability to make friends, and putting them together with the sole purpose of accomplishing this impossible task, Hirasaka creates an intriguing plot that will fuel the reader’s interest in subsequent volumes.
The artwork in Haganai is polished and will appeal to a wide range of readers. The characters are represented consistently throughout the manga and the action sequences are easy to follow. The creators cover a significant amount of content as well; the reader is given a satisfying amount of story, but is not rushed through individual events in order to make all the content fit. In this volume, the reader becomes acquainted with the entire Neighbors Club as they engage in one of their odd club activities. The action then revisits the origins of the club and begins a day-by-day introduction of the earliest members and their first interactions with one another. The introduction of each character is well-paced, and the creators develop the reader’s understanding of the characters through actions and dialogue, rather than awkward monologues.
The final makeup of the cast of characters— five girls, one guy, and that feminine underclassman who might be a girl— has the elements of a typical harem manga wherein all the girls vie for the attention of the lone male character. However, such a situation does not begin in this volume, and for a manga with an age rating of 16+, it is surprisingly low on fanservice and bad language. The seeds for more mature content are present, though, so this volume is better suited to mature teens and adults.
Haganai: I Don’t Have Many Friends, vol. 1
by Yomi Hirasaka
Art by Itachi
Seven Seas Entertainment, 2012
Publisher Age Rating: Older Teen (16+)